This big screen adaptation of Michael Bond’s Paddington books is an unqualified triumph that will have audiences of all ages laughing and crying throughout.
Other than the pre-credits set up in which an explorer visiting Darkest Peru meets a pair of talking bears and promises them a warm reception if they ever visit London, the film shifts the story to the modern day but otherwise leaves the core of Bond’s stories intact.
When an earthquake destroys their home and kills Uncle Pastuzo, Aunt Lucy takes hope from the explorer’s talk of London’s generosity and sends her young nephew Paddington in search of a new home.
But the city he arrives in isn’t quite the friendly haven the bears have long imagined as they sat in their treehouse learning English and the myriad of ways Londoners can say that it’s raining.
Instead of being scooped up into the arms of a loving family willing to provide him with a warm, safe home, Paddington initially encounters a stream of people too wrapped up in their own lives to have time for the clearly distressed and vulnerable newcomer.
Until, that is, he meets the Brown family (headed by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) and even they’re only willing to give him a temporary berth before handing him over to the terrifying sounding ‘Authorities’ to be processed and institutionalised.
A series of misadventures bring Paddington to the attention of an evil taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) keen to add him to her collection of rare species, forcing the Browns to decide whether they might, after all, have a duty of care to the new arrival…
With its fun tale of a friendly, pickpocket catching and keen to learn English immigrant the film seems carefully calibrated to bait UKIP and challenge its ‘close the doors’ message – something our major party leaders seen unwilling and unable to manage.
Our bear’s big screen debut concludes its celebration of diversity by having Paddington observe: “In London nobody’s alike, which means that everyone fits in.”
The film’s CGI work – the result of a reported £50m investment by Studiocanal – is a triumph. The detailing of the fur and the fluidness of movement rival anything seen in larger budget Hollywood titles.
When coupled with Ben Whishaw’s beautifully mischievous but innocent voice, the result is to bring Paddington to life with a believability that will capture the heart of even the most jaundiced and reluctant viewer.
There’s been a talk of the film’s PG rating, blamed by the BBFC on its “innuendo”.
This presumably relates to a scene in which Bonneville dresses as a cleaning lady and is hit upon by a male security guard – all standard comedy fare and so absurdly played that it’s hard to see what the censors were thinking.
Paddington is a wonderfully fun and happy film which, long after its cinema run, will continue to be loved and enjoyed on TV and DVD for years to come.
Released November 28th